Whisky Advocate

Disappointments in whisky in 2010

December 13th, 2010

I’m looking back on 2010. Indeed, there’s plenty to be thankful for. But I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and I’m feeling a little grumpy, so I thought I would save the “giving thanks” post for a happier time and focus on my disappointments today.

I can think of several things that disappointed me this year.

Social media abuse

The first one was the regular misuse and abuse of social media by whisky company employees. On several occasions this year, I discovered whisky companies (from the smallest to the largest) artificially pumping up their brands with their “anonymous” comments here on WDJK. I addressed each abuse as I discovered them, so I am not going to rehash it here. (Plus,  some of the companies I caught now have implemented policies to ensure this doesn’t happen again.)

But the fact remains that this kind of stuff is going on. And if it’s happening here, then it’s happening on other social media sites too. It’s not right, and the whisky companies should know better.

False or misleading statements

A second thing disappointed me: False statements by whisky companies. I’ve addressed this here earlier this year. For example, if it’s NOT your first new whisky in more than 50 years, then why are you telling everyone that it is? Sure it sounds nice, and it’s a great marketing tool. I’m even thrilled that you came out with a new whisky, and I like it too! But it’s not your first new whisky in more than 50 years, and it shouldn’t have been promoted as such.

Paying to play

Another thing that disappointed me: How many times must I say that you can’t pay for editorial exposure in Malt Advocate ? Just last week, someone in the business asked me how we determine what gets written in our New Products section. The person wanted to know if they had to pay to get one of their whiskies written up there. No, you just have to send us a press release and a review sample. (I guess I have to say it a few more times, which is why I am listing it here today.)

Premature bottling

And now to the last one. This one isn’t as much disappointing as it is sad. So many craft distillers are putting out new whiskeys right now. For most,  the potential of the whiskeys are there, but they’re being released too soon. They’re just immature, and they need more aging. (Okay, some of them probably won’t get better no matter how long they are aged in wood, but I think this is the minority, not the majority.)

Look, I understand the need for some of these small craft distillers to get returns on their investments to pay mounting bills. (And I am also aware that young whiskeys can be great in cocktails, but I am speaking from the point of view of a whiskey drinker here, not a mixologist.) I would rather you make gin or vodka or unaged rum and let your whiskey mature a little longer, than sell your whisky before it is mature.

What do you think?

How about you? Do you agree or disagree with me? And please explain.

Finally, is there anything that disappointed you this year? If so, what?

Thanks!

P.S. I promise to not be this grumpy every morning.

125 Responses to “Disappointments in whisky in 2010”

  1. Gal Granov says:

    My only disappointment this year, is that the whisky tax in israel which was supposed to be reduced to 140% from 200 %.

    our stupid, asshole members of parliament , made a mess of it. and now, we’re stuck with this tax.

    • mark davis says:

      Is it 200% on all spirits? that';s foolish. that only encourages people to drink worse products. Most countries just tax by volume.

  2. lawschooldrunk says:

    I’m just upset that I didn’t share my thoughts as much as I would have liked on your site after you listed last year the top ten commentators on your site! ;)

    A SMALL second is the price raising for brand re-marketing when the inside contents were not changed.

    Third, I dislike the trend of not writing the age statement on the label. Distilleries may argue that you pay for the taste and not how old it is. That’s a valid argument but then they can’t charge an outrageous price for a 40 year old that tastes like taking a bite out of wood or a sip from nail polish remover or moldy, musty vinegar wine. Or for that matter, a perfectly acceptable 18 year old that doesn’t subjectively taste better than an 8 year old.

    I do not think it is nice to charge consumers, i.e. $40 for a no-age-statement bottle when in reality and secretly it’s 90% 3 year old with 10% 18 year old.

  3. Lee says:

    I agree with the ‘false and misleading statements.’ I’ve corrected many people who get confused over marketing campaigns and branding recently. I’ve had people offer me aged whiskey that they say was made in Utah, not realizing that the bourbon or rye was sourced in KY. I know that it is an honest mistake that can be rectified by reading the label (which few people do) but I’m sure people still buy it on that novel premise.

  4. Paul M. says:

    I have to partially disagree with you about putting out premature whiskies. Sometimes it’s nice to taste young whiskies, even if it is a little premature. What I object to is the premium prices they want to charge, which is why I haven’t tried many of them.

    Being from Illinois, it is refreshing to see that not everyone participates in the “pay for play” world. Thank you for that!

  5. JamesK says:

    I’m disappointed in Diageo. Yes, they own some of the best distilleries and have the lion’s share of the market, but do they have to act like a monopoly in their pricing? Why is the Lagavulin 12 25-30% more expensive this year than its previous 2009 release? Is the reason because they can and you can’t do anything about it? And of course, there’s the much maligned Manager’s Choice bottling prices, which created a huge backlash on this board early in the year. I hope they turn things around, as I do enjoy their whiskies, but I can see myself (and others) choosing to boycott them if they continue abusing their position.

    • Paul M. says:

      Diageo will continue to charge us higher and higher prices as long as we, the consumer, continue to pay!

    • Louis says:

      James, the Lagavulin 12 is on the shelf at Warehouse Liquors in NYC (Broadway and Astor Place) for a mere $50.

      Paul, Diageo may initially set a high retail price, but they come down after a while. I’ve purchased Talisker 175th Anniversary and Oban DE for $50.

      • JamesK says:

        Louis, that’s definitely a leftover from the previous release (still a low price though). The new 12 will be about $100 at most retailers. On a rare occasion you will find a deal on a Diageo product, but they are few and far between. I think Paul says it all, we the consumers are allowing them to gouge us by continuing to buy their products. In the end, I am to blame as much as Diageo.

        • Sean says:

          Sorry James, I have to disagree I bought the Laga 12 2010 for $66 here in Phoenix, AZ. Same price I paid for the Laga 12 2009. I also grabbed a Caol Ila 12 CS Unpeated 2010 release for $55. if Diageo is jacking up their prices, I haven’t seen it out here.

          • JamesK says:

            Sean, I don’t know why there is such a price discrepancy, but I have been assured by my favorite whisky retailer (who usually has one of the area’s lowest prices) that the price increase is due to their cost increase courtesy of Diageo. Right now, it’s at $99.99 for me and the rest of the SF Bay Area, while the last release was $65. Just for comparison, the standard Lagavulin 16 sells for $65 at the same store. How much is that there?

          • Sean says:

            James the Lagavulin 16 is $80 at the cheapest here (though it can be as high as $100 depending on the store). What I can’t stand is how the prices range so much by state which makes me think it isn’t the distillery that is doing it. How can Laphroaig 18 be $70 or lower in a couple of states but $120-150 in others?

      • Louis, The Distiller’s Edition is not the same as the Managers’ Choice. The price difference is about 600%

  6. George Jetson says:

    John, my disappointment goes to a previous blog of yours, which is the bureaucratic B.S. in these United States which prevents many of the best new innovative foreign producer’s wares from being imported to our shores. Between bottle size restrictions, label approval and running amok of definitions, it is amazing that we are able to access even the fraction that we do.

    I also agree that start up craft distillers (whatever that means exactly) should focus on other spirirts while their whiskies are maturing. The burgeoning American-style Gin is one very much appreciated boon of the U.S. distillery boom.

    • John Hansell says:

      George, I forgot to mention that one. Yes, you are correct, the governmental red tape has been an ongoing disappointment for a long time. That most certainly should be on my list here.

      • Paul M. says:

        For those that do not remember, a little history may make you feel better about what we have. When the 18th amendment (prohibition) to the U.S. Constitution was repealed by the 21st amendment, this is what we got. So, as much as most of don’t like the federal restriction and all of the states right to put on their own restrictions, let’s just be thankful for the repeal and have a drink. After all, it could have been worse.

        • Henry H. says:

          Surely you understand this argument is specious on its face. Doubt we even need to provide an analogous example in order to make the point that a tad less arbitrary repression on the part of grandstanding powermongers is not something to be “thankful” for, much less celebrate with a drink.

      • The best Government BS is the fact that non-scottish single malts cannot state single malt and whisky on the same line on the label. Heard about that on whiskycast.com… Weird…

        • Dear Sjoerd:

          You write, “The best Government BS is the fact that non-scottish single malts cannot state single malt and whisky on the same line on the label. Heard about that on whiskycast.com… Weird…”

          Are you sure about this? And can you explain why this is worthy of complaint?

          I’m looking at a bottle that I acquired here in the U.S. that reads:

          Connemara
          PEATED SINGLE MALT
          IRISH WHISKEY

          No difficulty here in seeing that this is a single malt—indeed, its single malt status precedes the declaration that it’s Irish!

          Cheers,

          Kevin

          • This is worthy of complaint because it gets whiskies rejected by the tobacco and alcohol tax whatchamacallit. That means the USA gets left out.

            For me, that means more for us, but the reason is a bit lame.

  7. Ryan says:

    So disappointed that those affiliated with many, many whisky brands are too morally, ethically, or intellectually jaded to respect the boundary between utilizing a bit of online social networking for PR purposes; and deceitfully attempting to subvert online civic space (such as this WDJK blog) and the speech of those of us whom occupy such space.

    Hopefully one day soon such folks will realize their manipulative practices cut both ways and that the online civic space that they abuse, can turn on them and corrupt the integrity of their brands through negative viral Internet memes about their own ham-fisted PR work.

    So if anyone affiliated with a whisky brand reads this post; know this: if you underestimate the ability of target audiences to see-through your poser routine, then your brand’s credibility (and therefore value) quite likely won’t survive the 21st Century intact. Disappoint savvy consumers, and they’ll be sure to disappoint your revenue expectations.

    So please, for your own brand’s sake, just treat people right by maintaining a healthy open dialouge with them instead of acting like a bunch of tools.

  8. Red_Arremer says:

    Beam Global & Laphroaig

    2 10 yo’s and a freaking NAS– that’s what you’ve got if you’re a Laphroaig drinker in MA with a budget lower than 160.

    Screw Beam Global– I never thought I’d see my favorite distillery done so poorly.

    • ps says:

      the 10, Quarter Cask and 18 are the best deals going in my area (midwest).

    • joe hyman says:

      hey red, why not drive up to NH? i heard awhile back that they had Laph-18 for $70…

      • lockejn says:

        We do, and it’s tasty!

      • Red_Arremer says:

        I really should go up to NH Joe– But I want to emphasize that it’s Beam Gobal that orchestrated these state to state price differences and that that’s what’s so offensive.

        It comes down to control states. Beam Global was going to do some high price (higher than the fake-ass 100-110$ rrp), though not as high as the 160$ MA tag, for everyone. To BG’s surprise, most of the states with liquor monopolies like NH, PA, etc., said “you’re aiming too high; the people who were buying the 15 won’t touch this so we don’t want it.”

        BG’s genius solution was to price the 18 the same as the old 15 yo (60-75$) in control states, and raise the price in non-control states by however much was required to meet accounting’s original projections (turned out to be 150-160$).

        What kind of way is that to do business. What the hell…

        • JD says:

          To what extent is that Beam doing the pricing, and to what extent is it the state taxes? NH has much lower taxes than MA. Sounds like the difference for the Laphroiag 18yo in NH ($70) and MA ($150+?) is more than just the taxes, but I bet the taxes are a big part of it.

          NH has great deals on bourbon & rye too. I got some BTAC whiskies there this year for way below what I see them for in other states.

          BTW NH has a web-based inventory system which makes it a breeze to plan your shopping trip. You can search for products and see the price and quantity on hand at various locations. Great setup.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            Beam Global is doing the pricing to a *total* extent, JD. Of course I’m citing the retail prices I see at all the stores and of course MA liquor tax is more than 6%, but– BG really is selling to say, PA for close to 100$ less than it is to MA distributors.

    • sam k says:

      Laphroaig 18 is selling at a $59.99 regular price in PA.

      • JJR says:

        Where in PA do they sell Laph 18 for only $60? Is the entire state of PA liquor controlled? If so, I am going to stop through there on my way to Detroit from DC….

        • sam k says:

          It is a statewide price. You can see exactly what stores have it in stock by going to the product search page (http://www.lcbapps.lcb.state.pa.us/webapp/Product_Management/psi_ProductDefault_inter.asp) and entering Laphroaig 18 in the keyword search box. The result will show a listing for the product with a code number (3042). Click on that number, and you’ll be taken to a page that allows you to search the inventory of every liquor store in the state that carries the product, and there are 17 pages worth. Just hit “submit” with “no selection” unless you want to search a particular county in the drop down menu. Good luck.

  9. Mberkow says:

    I’m disappointed in some US companies that call themselves craft distillers while acting like independent bottlers. While some of these are actually distilling and ageing spirits they are showcasing products (in magazines and festivals) that are actually sourced from other distillers and bottled under their distillery’s label.

    To echo John and others points from above, there are plenty of ways to keep your enterprise afloat while you create your whiskey products, don’t resort to a shell game. Scotch has shown us that there are great products to come from independent bottlers, why not with American whiskeys as well.

  10. aw says:

    John, what URL did you intend for your “some of them probably won’t get better” link? Currently it’s “http:///”.

  11. MrTH says:

    “P.S. I promise to not be this grumpy every morning.”

    I am disappointed to realize that there is no credible prospect of me making such a promise.

  12. I agree that it’s the PRICES of young craft whiskey more than the youth. For me, they’re like punk bands — embracing the DIY ethic, learning as they go, full of energy, even if the results are iffy. The difference is that punk bands also charged rock bottom prices for records and shows. And yeah, I understand the economics of it, even if I’m no math whiz. But understanding it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    The continued tendency of bottlers of perfectly wonderful bourbons to make up a pile of lies, fake distilleries, and bogus claims of ancient heritage instead of just being up front about their product continues to irk me to no end. George Washington did NOT drink your whiskey, man!

    And finally, signing up for a seminar/tasting (paid or free) only to discover that it’s being conducted by a hired model who doesn’t know whiskey from Irn Bru from Four Loko. I know some people go to tastings just to get free booze. But for me, these events are a chance for me to write about something I might not otherwise have had the chance to taste — not to mention the fact that i am way more likely to buy what I just tasted if the person pouring it for me knew a lot about it. So I go with the intent of asking questions, being interested, and doing something more than just shooting a plastic cup full of whiskey and going my way — and I assume that distilleries are there to promote awareness of their brand, rather than just hand out free drinks.

    So who wins when someone asks a simple question and the answer they get is a blank stare and a “I’m not really sure I know what the main grain in rye whiskey is. I think it’s potatoes.” I don’t expect a master distiller or brand ambassador at everything, and yes, I realize that in some of these instances I am drinking for free, but given the number of whiskey nerds in the world, surely distilleries can hire someone to present their product who actually knows what whiskey is. It reflects poorly on the product to have someone showcasing it who doesn’t know anything about what they’re pouring.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Right Keith– What’s up with people who are supposed to teach you about whisky not knowing anything about the products their promoting? Stuff like that sends the wrong message to consumers.

    • Ryan says:

      How about this for ridiculous pricing: $20 for one 200ml bottle of Corn Whiskey (Moonshine) from King County Distillery in Brooklyn, NY. That equates to $75 for 750mls of their moonshine; except they don’t sell 750ml bottles, so you would have to purchase four 200ml bottles for $80 if you wanted 750ml. $80!

      A store nearby me still has every bottle of the 2010 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection offering for $69 apeice. Or, I could buy 3 200ml bottles of this moonshine online for an $11 premium over either 750ml bottle of 2010 William Larue Weller, or 2010 George T. Stagg, from a distillery in Brooklyn that has only been in business for eight months? No way that’s gonna happen.

  13. David says:

    I am disappointed with the pricing of Springbank in the US. I was in Scotland this summer and the SB price points were significantly less. Other brands’ prices are not marked up nearly as much when coming over seas. So I never buy Springbank products here, I’ll usually get them form places overseas and after shipping is still a good bit cheaper than buying them stateside.

    • Steve Fox says:

      David
      I am the National sales Manager for Preiss Imports
      I do not know where you live? or what age you are looking for?
      I do know that prices change for state to state I find the Springbank 10yr around $41- $52 700ml in the UK and $46 – $55 750 ml in the US
      If there is a age you look for I will be happy to help find you the best price around

      • JamesK says:

        Steve, how about the 10 and 18yo in the San Francisco Bay area?

        • Steve Fox says:

          James

          Try Beltramo’s, SF Wine Co, K&L and D&M or in the south you Have HI Time or Mission Liq are just a few

          • JamesK says:

            Steve, $55 is the lowest from the 3 stores you mentioned here in the Bay Area. I’m having a difficult time understanding the regional pricing and why it is so high here.

          • Steve Fox says:

            james

            Please give me a call and I will help you on this 818-249-6680

          • Ummm, isn’t that the way it goes with all products.

            Supply/demand/overhead=price.

            Payless Shoes charges more for their sneakers in Washington, DC than it does for them in Akron, Ohio.

            Besides, you’re in the San Fran area—that’s a helluva long way for Sprinbank to travel, esp. when folks here on the East Coast are more than happy to inhale it! ;-)

            Cheers,

      • David says:

        Hey Steve, thanks for the reply, I live in Northern Virginia but shop whisky in Washington, DC, Springbank 10, $59.99, Springbank 15, $99.99, Springbank 18, $139.99. This is from Schneider’s of Capital Hill, which now has the best selection in DC. I also see similar prices at State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD. As a point of reference I’ve seen Laphroaig 10yr for $41.99, and Highland Park 12 as low as $39.99 at these stores.

      • mongo says:

        springbank 10, yes. but do you want to compare the 15 or, say, the 11yo madeira cask? the former is $58 (ex vat) for a 700ml bottle at the whisky exchange, or $62 for 750ml equivalent. it sells in the high $80s in most american markets. ditto for the madeira cask. apart from the cv longrow looks like a luxury whisky in the u.s; there is nothing exceptional about its prices in the u.k.

    • Anorak1977 says:

      Steffen:

      I agree. The importer is to blame. They don’t call themselves Preiss (Prei$$) importers for nothing :-) They do the same pricing game with GlenDronach and various other spirits they import (cognacs etc) !

      • Jacob says:

        I have to give Preiss Imports credit for putting on a great tasting event in Massachusetts: Springbanks, Longrow, Glendronach, and friends. Generous, unlimited samples and friendly, knowledgable pourers in kilts. However, I did not buy any bottles because the prices were just a little beyond their value to me (though I had to think hard about the Glendronach 15).

        In general, high prices for a particular brand don’t bother me. There is enough selection and competition that I’ll just buy something or somewhere else. Springbank is tasty but a bit over-priced, but within the lineup I would suggest Longrow CV for a particularly good value at about $50.

  14. two-bit cowboy says:

    In Real Estate, they say, “location, location, location” is the key.

    In BIG whisky companies, be they distilleries or importers, I think the catch phrase changes to, “allocation, allocation, allocation.”

    It seems I nearly have to beg or grovel to get one measly case of a conglomerate’s limited release whisky. Funny, too, that they rarely tell us how many bottles comprise the “limited release.” (In one particular case the “limited” number was 50,000 worldwide, 25,000 bottles for the USA. Not very limited, eh? But still highly “allocated.” Balderdash!)

    But when a relatively small distillery or importer brings a couple thousand bottles of a special edition to the USA, all I need do is place an order to receive one or two cases. And they seem to appreciate my business. Sam, Neal, and Ken — thank you!

    Be nice if everyone played by the “first horse to the trough” rule. They’d likely sell their “water” quicker.

    • I have to agree with Two-Bit Cowboy. I have to constantly jump through hoops to get a couple of bottles of Edition 2010 because everybody wanted the 2009 and I play all the games correctly ( i will support sister distillery blah..blah..) and I get a very nice allocation and then nobody wanted the 2010 or they made so much of it everybody got what they wanted and I have Super Rare 2010 sitting on my shelf for 3 months now. Don’t get me started on the folks in Kentucky, they say to me you can’t have any of this cause you didn’t sell enough of that but they wont sell me that to get any of this, I feel like a work in D.C..
      Larry
      Pearsons Wine of Atlanta

    • Ryan says:

      Good call two-bit, the allocation voodoo with bourbon products absolutely blows! Buffalo Trace Antique Collection/Old Rip Van Winkle products immediately spring to mind. Absolutely marvelous stuff to drink and some of my favorites, but due to strict geographical allocations of it all one often has better odds of striking iridium in their own backyard than finding a bottle of those.

      Plus, allocation fosters a rabidly obsessive sub-culture of hoarders whom care more for constructing home-built shrines to the stuff, than actually cracking it open and enjoying it… a trend that totally turns me off. After a few years, the annual allocation hunt gets incredibly lame. Especially now with the emergence of excellent new Heaven Hill and Four Roses prestige offerings for bourbon lovers to enjoy.

      • Jason Pyle says:

        You nailed it Ryan. I appreciate those constructing bunkers. It’s kind of cool, but not at the expense of those that actually want to drink it. Of course their argument is, “Get out there and get it then.” I cannot lie, I too have a “stash”, what whiskey lover doesn’t, but if you’ve got 4 bottles of 2010 W.L. Weller can you leave that 5th one on the shelf please. I actually enjoy drinking it vs. hoarding it.

  15. Serge says:

    Hi John, I’m sorry, this won’t help much but I feel exactly the same four disappointments at my end – and I too feel grumpy ;-).
    As for ‘social abuse’, that’s one of the reasons why I never and will never open comments on my own wee digital effort. At first, also because I didn’t know how to do that when I started (not sure it was possible in fact), and now because some other places do it much better than I would/could anyway (especially this very one!)
    Maybe a fifth one, very much related IMHO: too much selling, too little education. All these new tools would be great for education but they use them for selling (win this, buy that!) Frankly, sometimes it really stinks.

  16. B.J. Reed says:

    John has covered most of these before and I concur with all of them albeit you can find some excellent young whiskies but if its not ready for prime time its not ready!

    Also, I am disappointed the the ever increasing reach of the marketing folks into decisions that affect the quality and judgment of the production side of the industry. I first raised this in Spring and it remains a concern. In some ways small privately held distilleries are the least affected and in other cases the most affected. There are few if any degrees of separation between marketing and production but they are also the ones where the need to do “gimmicks” to sell more product dominated by the big boys is most intense.

    Of the big boys I think Highland Park may do one of the best jobs of balancing the need to create new interest in products (e.g. Magnus, Havarta) but also stay true to their core expressions. Balvanie also does a pretty good job of creating new expressions (Rum, Peated) but staying true to their approach (17 YO’s) and core expressions. Others just simply through stuff out there because it is “new”. “different” or to create buzz. That is truly disappointing…

  17. Lee says:

    I was also very disappointed in some of the comments left in regards to your blog post on cigars and whiskey. I expected a group of bon vivants to be a bit more tolerant.

  18. David S says:

    This may be a little bit controversial and in no way meant to be a jibe at Serge (it just happens to be the next post…) but this year I have been disappointed with the attention to ‘bloggers’ from some of the distillers. VIP treatment, special trips/tours/samples/tastings etc etc. I have seen too many ‘returns’ by the bloggers from this VIP treatment and really, what is the point of being an independent voice or blogger if you’re simply going to regurgitate what the distillers tell you after they’ve taken you out for a nice meal? I’ve stopped reading lots of blogs because of this and some of them I really liked. [I still drop in on whiskyfun.com because Serge does not do 'returns'].

    Distillers, treat bloggers with exactly the same respect, care and attention that you would any other loyal and interested party. They are absolutely in no way any more important than anyone else! And if they ask for samples, tell them to get lost!

    David

    • As a blogger I am with you here, David. But I don’t belong to that inner circle that gets invited, so it’s easy to agree ;-)

      But I don’t quite agree with your statement about the importance of bloggers. The reason why the industry tries to embrace them is because they regard them as multiplicators and hence they are important for them. They spread the word just like journalists, only on a smaller scale – and in some cases with less friction.

      • MrTH says:

        In other words, a little easier to buy off?

        • In a way. There certainly is a temptation when you as a small blogger suddenly are offered stuff for free.

          • David S says:

            Not sure I agree when there are excellent people like Whisky Intelligence and the WhiskyCast who make it clear that they are there to reproduce press releases and released information. I see bloggers as an independent voice in the whisky world – unless of course they are openly biased or employed by a company etc

          • Serge says:

            @David and just for the sake of clarification, the only free ‘VIP’ treatment I’ll accept is samples but I never ask for them (maybe I did one or two times in the past, I don’t remember). Some bottlers send me samples, some do not (although I know they send some to other Web types). That’s more than fine, I’ll find them anyway ;-). Like John I’m sure, we have much more whisky than we can taste. Oh, and remember the most difficult whiskies to get are the cheap, crappy ones, because nobody will send them to you. They’re rather trying to hide them!

    • Hi David,

      As a fellow blogger I has recently received some samples sent by distillers and shops. There was always only one question by me before reviewing or accepting in the first place: Can I write a bad review? Thusfar, this has been the case in every situation.

      Maybe in case of Serge or other high profile bloggers are offered rewards, this is usually not the case thusfar. I think many companies have come to understand that bribing independent voices can come back at you very hard. For example on this very blog the bribers are outed straight away.

      • MrTH says:

        It’s rarely so overt as “I’ll do this for a good review”, though. It’s more a matter of stroking the blogger in an effort to create good will. I know that I’m inclined to speak well of people who treat me well, but I try at least to be open about it. In the end, I’m not sure there is any such thing as objectivity, really. People try to build good relationships, and it’s naive to think they don’t expect to get anything out of it. It’s just as naive to think they won’t.

  19. Wim says:

    My dissapointment is that people are buying 3 to 5 year old whisky’s for prices you pay for a 16 year old Lagavulin, if we keep paying these prices for theses very young whisky’s what are we gonna pay for a 10 or 15 year old proper version of these whisky’s

    • Ryan says:

      I’m more frustrated by what nacent “Craft Distillers” feel entitled to ask for immature versions of their products now, than what I (or others) may someday be asked to pay for properly matured versions.

      Which leads me to suppose I am not alone in that concern, and that those products won’t survive a decade, decade-and-a-half, of broad consumer reluctance without more realistic price structures.

      So yes, there are multiple possiblilities for undeserved price escalation within the scenario you propose Wim; but I believe that ultimately the consumer will prevail.

    • Yello to Mello says:

      There havent been any names mentioned about the young whiskies going for prices that some 10-12 year OB SMS or as mentioned earlier, Lagavulin 16 so I wont either. However there are a very select few that can get away with it and their taste profiles can speak for themselves. I guess in this blog John and some other commentators are suggesting that their are now too many distilleries trying to jump on something.

      • Ryan says:

        I believe, “emulation,” is the theme you are alluding to when you say, “trying to jump on something.” And unfortunately more micro/craft distillery emulation is trending toward emulating the pricing structures of some exceptional establishment brands; than toward emulating (let alone besting) the revered flavor profiles of some exceptional establishment brands.

        Disenchanting huh? Especially when considering the majority of PR rhetoric from micro/craft distilleries universally revolves around the concept of their endeavours to re-invent the wheel… or in this case, the whisky.

        And I want to root for the rising star! I want a re-ordering of the whisky cosmos. I want big distilleries to persistently feel intimidated by the obscene quality of micro/craft distillers and respond with lower prices and stunning quality. Sadly, I just don’t believe that is the actual scenario playing out right now within the galaxy of whisky.

        So maybe, for now, we should just start calling them, “Whisky IPOs,” or, “Whisky Start-Ups,” instead of micro/craft distillers. Surely this is something to be disappointed about in 2010.

  20. This brand ambassador tweet came in just a minute ago:

    “If you are a fan of Glenmorangie please nominate us for the Malt Advocate awards by leaving your feedback at the link posted below”

    The link leads to yesterday’s “Which whisky distillery impressed you the most” post.

    Nicely fits the picture, doesn’t it?

    ps: I left the name of the distillery because it was a public announcement.

    • Ryan says:

      Absolutely no surprise there Oliver. Especially coming from pack a visionless aspirational brand mongers like them. Them being all celestial branding bodies within the orbit of Moët Hennessy.

    • I wonder if anyone at Glenmorangie itself knows anything about the tweet. I’ve heard stories about distilleries not being in the know about public outings made by brand owners.

      Talisker’s 57 north came out with some people at the distillery not knowing about it, as I’ve been told.

  21. Louis says:

    My vote is for stratospheric prices in a bad economy. $150 for the Laphroaig 18 and Dalmore 18, for example. And $130 for the Balvenie 17 Peated Cask. It isn’t anywhere near twice as good as the 14 Rum Cask, and the Amrut Fusion does the same thing better for half the price. And if someone from those distilleries’ marketing departments are going to chime in and say that they are reasonably priced, please keep in mind that there are plenty of these from the past few years that are now being dumped at fire sale prices.

  22. Rick Duff says:

    My biggest things are:
    too many limited bottlings
    too high of prices.
    enough said.

  23. Vince says:

    The thing that I get most grumpy about is the trend to eliminate age statements on products that previously had an age statement and then not provide some guidance as to the age of the whiskey and the % in the bottle. I realize that many people do not understand that an age statement refers to the youngest whiskey in the bottle but its disturbing when I see Wild Turkey and Old Weller Antique go down this path (to mention two). I also really have a problem with new, limited edition bottles with no age statement but at a price that reflects a well aged whiskey.
    I also feel bad for the scotch drinkers out there. I love a good single malt and probably have 15 or so bottles, but the price of scotch compared to bourbon (my first love) is eye opening. I am glad I can maintain a fairly significant bourbon “bunker” at reasonable prices.

    • sam k says:

      I’m eternally grateful for Elijah Craig maintaining an almost unbelievable 12 year age statement in the face of continuing industry pressure, and keeping the faith at 94 proof, all at less than $40 a 1.75 L here in PA. What does that say about the profit margins of other major brands at four years or so old? God bless Heaven Hill!

  24. Quentin says:

    My gripe is travel retail only bottlings that turn out to be not all that great. I make very few trips abroad (and many people are not even that lucky), so I have to be careful in what I buy in the duty-free shops. that said, I found a couple (like the Highland Park 1994) to be pretty disappointing, even insipid.

    • George Jetson says:

      I feel your pain Quentin, and you can add the 1990 HP d-f release to the insipid pile as well (and not cheap either). John’s blog is sometimes the only source for information on the d-f bottlings, but then he gets slammed for creating a buzz about whiskies that only a few can access. I took a stab in the dark at the Newcastle U.K. duty-free and came up a winner with the Old Pulteney Isabella Fortuna n.a.s. cask strength. If you see that one on your journeys, it is defintiely worth the price of admission.

    • joe hyman says:

      i brought back the hp’98 & ’94…the ’98 was very good and haven’t opened the ’94 yet…what was so disappointing?

  25. I am a bit dissaponted with webpages asking for your birthday details and country. It’s pure annoyinibf for us regular customers and must be 100% invented by lawyers of the companies doing it

    If anyone think this prohibit too young people from entering whisky pages they must be idiots!

    Apart from that I don’t really think underaged people are interested in quality drinks at all, and if they are..HURRAA….drinking “expensive” whisky motions toward drinking for the effect of taste instead of the effect of intoxiacation……

    Steffen

    • Anorak1977 says:

      Correct again Steffen: more marketing ploys, purely for the purpose of gathering marketing demographics!

    • Craig McGill says:

      Steffen (and Anorak1977) – it’s actually not a marketing ploy for most. It’s just something done to keep on the good side of DrinkAware and some legal teams insist on it for websites just so they can turn round and say ‘look, we tell people what they need to be to access this site.’

      It’s about covering themselves more than anything else.

      • Just as I said..invented by lawyers for your own protection, no use at all, as if it would prevent anyone “unwanted” to enter a site.

        You only get two effects :

        1. Annoying your regular customers
        2. The occasional teenager will get a great laugh how stupid the webowners are and how easy they are to “beat”

        Steffen

        • Henry H. says:

          It’s so nice to read some straight talk on regulation silliness now and then. Thanks for the breath of fresh air, Steffen.

        • Keith Sexton says:

          What’s annoying is that the sites do not remember the info. We have to plug in the dates every time we visit the sites. Wouldn’t be so bad if it was one and done.

    • Keith Sexton says:

      Wouldn’t be so bad if it was one and done. I can’t stand that if we visit the same site 10 times, then we have to put the dates in 10 times.

    • H.Diaz says:

      I’m with you on this one. At the very least a birth year should suffice.

  26. joe hyman says:

    There are also some young whiskies that are done right, too.
    Recently, I got a bottle from a local (farm) craft distiller here in MA, Noshoba Valley Winery… only 5 yrs, but surprisingly good. They usually do apple wines and eau-de-vie (since they’re an orchard), but they aged the single malt whisky in their own barrels…

    • MrTH says:

      Can you tell me the name of this product, please, and where I might find it? I haven’t heard of it.

      • joe hyman says:

        it’s called ‘stimulus’,nashoba valley spirits, ltd, bolton, ma, 5 yrs, 42% abv… comes in a funky shaped bottle with a chunk of a stave wedged onto the cap. they only sell it at their facility or thru their website.

    • Henry H. says:

      Indeed. Can’t think of a better example than the Highland Park 8 yo from the MacPhail’s Collection. Youngest single malt in my cabinet, and certainly not the most complex, yet one of my favorites.

  27. Jake Parrott says:

    Standards of fill regulations continue to be in effect. I guess if we’re allowed to import 700mL bottles the terrorists win.

  28. Ivan Stoler says:

    I’m disappointed in the the so called craft distillers. They need to make another product to bring in the $ while their whiskey matures. I’m also saddened by the bragging I heard from some of these producers @ whisky fest. We’re the best, blah blah blah……

  29. Jacob says:

    My biggest disappointment is hearing about exciting new whiskies that never become available near me, or perhaps in the U.S. at all. Perhaps the root cause of this is the aforementioned government red tape. In any case, I continue to look forward to tasting Port Charlotte 8.

  30. mongo says:

    i’m having trouble posting this so i’m going to try doing it in parts:

    in addition to some of the complaints listed above, i am also disappointed by how piss poor most liquor stores’ websites are in the year 2010. just some of the things that bug me:

    1) stores whose web listings little or no relationship to actual inventory. you place an order and then you get a call or email saying the whisky is not actually there, and may even have been gone for a really long time. stores like k&l and d&m with their live inventory displayed are the refreshing exception.

    2) stores that barely list any information that can help identify the whisky beyond the distillery of origin. particularly annoying with indie bottles.

    • mongo says:

      3) stores that don’t list everything they have in stock. on astor’s site, for instance, only 100 malts are listed. but there’s more that can be found by doing name specific searches. but why do i have to do this scavenger hunt?

      4) stores that don’t have wishlists (almost none do) or have shopping carts that get cleared very quickly. d&m has a wonderful persistent cart; binny’s cart doesn’t clear for a few days–it’s not that difficult to do. the worst offender: the whisky exchange, whose cart dumps its contents within minutes if you don’t remain active on their site (even if you’re logged in).

      • Louis says:

        Mongo, you need more selective search criteria on Astor’s site. A single search will not return more than 100 results. Try the price range drop down as a filter.

        • mongo says:

          i’m sure you’ll agree that that’s still terrible functionality. why restrict the regular listing to just 100 entries?

    • mongo says:

      5) stores that don’t give you any way to sort the online inventory–by region/name/price/age etc.. especially egregrious when there’s a giant inventory (as with binny’s).

  31. Murrell Kinkade says:

    Premature aging and something disappointing plays together. Copper Fox in Virginia figures in both. I bought some single malt from there, whew! really immature. Myself and a friend each bought one of their tiny barrel kits. Six months and there was maybe 350-400 ml left in the cask. And that was with two 750 ml botles in it. I saw Rick Wasdin I believe it is at a tasting in Indianapolis. Told him and he acted as though I was lying. Very disappointed and have a told a lot of people, it is not a rare thing apparently. As far as social media abuse, if the Feds did some of the stuff that some of those sites do, the AClU would be going nuts.

    • Vince says:

      Murrell
      I also purchased one of the Barrel kits from Wasmunds. I let it age 6 months and had the exact same experience. I got about a half of a 750 ML bottle after putting two full 750 ML bottles in the barrel. I know thats the angels share but he should be selling that for much less.

  32. Henry H. says:

    John, I’m betting I speak for more than a few of us when I say I look forward to your “grumpy” mornings – for reasons that should be obvious to most any enthusiast who’s read through these comments. Please make sure to wake up on the wrong side of the bed every now and then. Needless to say, we all benefit from your sunnier side, as well.

  33. two-bit cowboy says:

    I ‘was’ grumpy because there were no new postings on WDJK today. Then I looked at today’s entry on Serge’s whiskyfun.com. No more grumpys! Absolutely hilarious — and sadly, likely true for far too many.

    It’s nearly 10 p.m. my time — look at Serge’s timing for 20 years ago: that’s me and it’s SN 2010.

    Have a great night / day.

  34. Michael says:

    My biggest disappointment is with Web sites of distilleries or IBOs, The Web sites are often of very poor quality, never updated and not current at all. This I find completely unacceptable.

    Examples? Here they are:

    (my favourite whisky) Laphroaig -constantly outdated
    Gledronach (single casks from Nov 2010 still not there)
    Kilchoman (very, very low quality)
    Gordon&MacPhail (no useful information whatsoever)

    and the worst of all:

    Number One Drinks Company (zero information about current releases of Karuizawa)

  35. sam k says:

    I just stopped by to make it an even hundred comments! My only grump has to do with ever-increasing prices, but that seems unstoppable. I remember Eagle Rare single barrel at $18 not too awfully long ago, Wild Turkey Rare Breed at $30, and Blanton’s at $35. Sigh…

  36. John Hansell says:

    Hello, whisky companies! Are you reading any of this? You should be! There’s much to be learned here.

  37. Doc says:

    Yes I am new here, but a long time magazine subscriber. My gripe is: limited releases that end up on ebay for highly inflated prices. If you are not going to drink it, LEAVE IT ON THE SHELF. I love the BT antique collection and I wish to enjoy the contents.

  38. Mashbill says:

    Regarding John’s comments to Micros doing vodka and gin as opposed to releasing new-make whiskey, I would say I disagree. The world doesn’t need more overpriced, rectified Iowa vodka, which is what most “micro-vodka” really is.

    If you don’t want to try their new make, don’t buy it, but don’t encourage category growth in the White Zin of spirits.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      I think gin’s a fascinating category– more integrity than other white spirits and a lot of potential for creativity– Personally, I’d much rather have a good gin than some lame immature whisky.

      • joe hyman says:

        i made my own ‘white spirit’ (i’m not much of a gin or vodka drinker)… i found an herb company out in the mid-west and bought a bag of wormwood from them, filled my ‘extractor-device’ with old whiskies i wasn’t going to drink, with some mint and blueberry tea, and got myself some ‘absMinthe’! and not too bad at that! ;-)

  39. MOJ says:

    In many ways I agree with John’s comment on releasing whisky that needs to mature longer. I am part of a group that is looking at producing a whisky in Minnesota. We are looking at different products to produce and give us the buffer, as well as resources we need to age the whisky long enough. There are two other products that we have in mind and they will both be somewhat unique, but not “White Zin Spirits!” I am distressed how major players in the industry are speeding toward “industrial output” and forgetting about the definitions that got them where they are at today. Everyone needs to profit, but quality should not suffer!

  40. Gary says:

    My biggest disappointment has always been availability of some of the premium or specialty bottlings. I understand it. But, it still makes me sad. ;)

  41. sam k says:

    Hey, how about this? Two consecutive posts on WDJK? have exceeded 100 comments! Is that a first? Regardless, it speaks to back-to-back posts that generated an immense amount of interest. Good work John and the world whiskey community. No disappointment in that!

    • John Hansell says:

      I think it is a first, Sam. I give credit to everyone who visits and comments. It isn’t without a price, though. I have been feeling some heat from the whisky companies on the latter post. Still, it isn’t going to stop me from doing what I think is right.

      • mashbill says:

        If you’re feeling heat from the producers, that tells me you’re doing your job as a journalist and critic.

      • Ryan says:

        Tell them (for us) that their customers thoroughly enjoy these discussions, and your WDJK blog, and that if they dislike said topic–or our discussion of it–they are welcome to chime-in and scold us themselves! Preferably from their corporate IP addresses.

  42. M Lange says:

    I think it’s interesting that you suggest new whiskey distilleries make white rum while waiting for their whiskeys to age. Whiskey seems to be one of the only categories of spirit where only well aged examples are seen as acceptable. Rum’s run the gamut from white to straw to quite dark, and no one seems to think this is strange, or that younger versions are less legitimate products. (there also a lot of white rum’s made darker with caramel coloring and spice extracts, but that’s another issue). Brandy has aged versions and Eau de Vie, Tequila has silver, reposado and anejo, etc. Some prefer the younger versions, some the older, but only with whiskey are people called out for bottling a product “before it’s time” You’ve even gave strong reviews to some young whiskeys (such as Stranahans), yet you lament bottling whiskey’s too young? It really makes no sense to me. (I also noticed that you have no reviews of the Hudson brand stuff, aged in smaller barrels for very short periods of time. I’d be very interested to see what you think of those)
    I’ve had a number of un-aged “white” whiskeys recently, and some of them are quite nice products that folks who enjoy white rum, grappa or eau de vie will probably like quite a lot. I think there is a whole range of flavors that whiskey has to offer from straight out of the still to decades old, and if it is made correctly, they can all be great products.
    I should also admit that I have a horse in the race here; I’m working on a business plan to start a small distillery, focusing mostly on whiskey, and I plan to release products of various ages, including a white whiskey, a mixed grain whiskey that will be aged in smaller barrels for around a year (not unlike Tuthilltown), a Rye whiskey aged for around five years and a Malt Whiskey aged longer than that. I don’t think that any of these products will be any better or worse because of the time they aged, but will go to show the range of different flavors you can create through aging whiskey. Of course, time will tell how good the products end up.

    • John Hansell says:

      If you re-read my post, you will see that I note that I was speaking from a whiskey enthusiast perspective, not as a mixologist. No one goes around sipping white rum, and I doubt the same will ever become popular for white whiskey. Whiskey enthusiasts, for the most part, like to drink mature product.

      I must admit though, since my post, that I am becoming more open to the concept of using white whiskey the same way as white rum (or blanco tequila), as long as the product is of high quality. I think it will be a long time though, before mainstream drinkers would ever enbrace the concept.

      I guess part of my issue here is that a lot of what’s being put out isn’t the quality I would like it to be. Hopefully that will change.

      I do have all the Hudson products and expect to reviewing them in the near future.

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